Friday, March 17, 2006

International flavour to St. Patrick's day

When the Irish Republic opened a new embassy in Beijing to great fanfare on a St Patrick's Day in the early 1980s, the centrepiece of the lavish celebrations was a quantity of shamrock air-freighted to the Chinese capital at significant expense.

The bunches of Trifolium dubium were arranged in a large Waterford crystal bowl, which was carefully placed in the entrance hall where Chinese dignitaries and ministers formed a queue to meet and greet Dublin's ambassador.

But by the time the final VIP's hand had been shaken, the Irish diplomats noticed the shamrock had vanished. The mystery was solved when embassy staff noticed many of the guests picking bits of chewed green leaf from their teeth, using the pins that had been provided to secure the plant sprigs - and unplanned hors d'oeuvre - to their clothing.

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